Tag Archives: culture in sweden

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

Coming to Sweden: African Edition Part I

I’ve been tackling how to best write about this topic. How it feels to a black African student is Sweden.

I have considered everything from doing a meme collage to a video story. However,to start with I thought it would be nice to share a few reflections and experiences.

I get emails asking me questions on everything from how to survive the weather. How to maintain natural hair. If racism exists in Sweden. Or, what to do when you’re craving food from home. So, this post is for you. As well as those who want to get some insight into being a black African student in Sweden.

Coming to Sweden: The African Edition Part 1

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

source: google.com


First, let’s just say that I’m realizing that when it comes to Swedish culture, we do things a little ‘say different’. For example saying sorry. Recently, I bumped into a fellow digital ambassador from India and said sorry. I expected a weird response but we both laughed when we realized that we both do it.

Growing up, we were taught that if you bumped into someone, someone dropped something, tripped or fell, you say sorry to kind of convey your empathy. It comes as a gut reaction. I quickly found that in Sweden, people find this odd and keep asking why I say sorry when I didn’t do anything.

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

source: giphy.com


Second, the weather will always be a topic of discussion until the day that I leave Sweden. No seriously. I once overheard some students on a bus discussing a classmate of theirs from Ghana (I think) and how he would go on and on about how the weather was terrible. They couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t just get over it. One thing I can say is that when you are used to sunshine (sometimes rain) and warmth for almost 365 days of the year it’s hard to (just get over it). Yes, it does get cold back home but not like Swedish ‘cold’ or ‘rain’.

Coming to Sweden: African edition

source: giphy.com

Speaking from experiencing my first Swedish winter and -6˚C, I doubt anyone just gets accustomed to it. Even for the second or the third or even the fourth time round. I’ve met other African students who have been here for years and even Swedes who say sometimes even they find it hard to cope. You get accustomed to it but it never becomes ‘normal’, you sort of just build tolerance. So, my advice for experienced winter students is to offer up some tips on how best to cope i.e. layering, exercise etc. when you find someone struggling.

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

Winter in Gothenburg


Third, I was kind of expecting this one. All the jokes about being asked how you arrived here? Is it your first time in Europe etc. Funny enough I haven’t encountered too many of these. On the odd occasion at afterwork a random girl will ask me what country I’m from and tell me that I’m making Africa proud. It used to get to me when even my lecturers would say ‘in Africa’. In my head I’d think there are 54 countries each with different stories, histories, cultures, geographies etc. so for me that’s like saying ‘in Europe’. But I take it in stride now and mention that it would be nice to know which specific country. I tended to get defensive in the beginning but now I’m quickly learning to:

‘Share our similarities, Celebrate our differences’

M. Scott Peck

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

source: memegenerator.net


Finally, I knew coming to Sweden meant less flexibility in terms of hair. I knew I would not be able to get the products I needed or it would be too expensive to get it done in a salon. Thus, I decided to learn how to care for my hair courtesy of YouTube. I did crotchet braids knowing they would last a few months before I decided what to do next. From day 1, I got asked whether it was my real hair or how I dry it when I wash it. At first I enjoyed answering all the questions even from random people who would walk up to me and touch my hair. However, encounters including hair sniffing and unwarranted touching quickly made me draw some boundaries. It’s great to be curious but it’s also good to ask before you touch or approach someone especially if its a stranger.

Coming to Sweden: African Edition

source: giphy.com

Take Away and Tips

Take it in stride. Before leaving home,past students from the Swedish Alumni Network in Kenya (SIANK) told us that when we come to Sweden we would not only be representing Kenya but the African continent on the whole. I am beginning to understand that being from a country so far away from Sweden is an opportunity to educate people about a culture, country and continent that is a world away.

The same way I am learning about Sweden and Europe is the same way I’d want Swedes as well as everyone else to know about my home country and Africa.

Here is a post I previously wrote about my study abroad experience coming from Kenya.

Keep reading for Coming to Sweden: African Edition Part II where I will discuss food, music and language.

Follow Study in Sweden on Snapchat for more updates

From Sweden with Love

NB: Disclaimer: This post is based on my perspective and experiences. It is not meant to generalize all African students in Sweden perspectives.


Why I chose to study 9370 km away from my home country.

I’m writing this at 10 km of altitude, while listening to Arctic Monkeys in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean inside of an Boeing 747-8, and it is until now that I realize how far is Mexico from Sweden (this is kinda obvious, it’s geography not rocket science right? but still…).

A lot of people have asked before why I chose Sweden? Why I chose a place to study so far from my home country?

DelsjönPhoto credit: Flavien Daussy.

So, let me explain to you guys why I chose Sweden.

Challenge accepted

Studying in Sweden represents a challenge, first of all because they speak another language, although everyone (literally everyone) in here speaks English I wanted to go to a place where I could experience something different, a different continent, a different culture, a different way of seeing things, a different everything.

Probably you have heard that great things are accomplished outside our comfort zone, and now I understand why.

Let’s put it like this, imagine your life is an experiment, if you do the exact same thing over and over again the results won’t change, if you control every single variable your outputs will be the same, this doesn’t mean that you should immediately start doing random stuff. But, I believe that everyone has some crazy idea; maybe trying a new sport, or learning something new. Einstein once said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

I agree.

Now picture this: new country, new city, new class mates, new educational system, new food… I could go for hours but you get the point. A lot of new inputs will result in a buttload (buttload is actually a unit of the imperial system) of new experiences.



Fresh start, new possibilities

You will put into practice new skills that you didn’t even knew you had, you will dedicate 3 hours to do laundry just because you don’t have idea of what are you doing, you will have the opportunity to join a student society or committee, and so on.

The possibility of new experiences increase linearly in function of how much we change the input variables this means that life is a function of new experiences and new adventures (at least that’s how I see it). Just like Elke said in her post (you can chek it out here), going to Sweden is a new shot for just about anything.

I also agree.

IMG_5333A lot of people asked me before, “aren’t you afraid of going to a place so far from your home, to a place where you don’t know anyone, to a place where you don’t even speak the language, to a place where during winter you only see the sun a couple of hours, where in some parts of the country the temperature is so cold that your eyelashes freeze?” and the answer is simple: of course I was afraid, but that was the idea, and I can tell you that after just 3 months of living in Sweden this was the best idea I’ve had so far. And just by the simple fact that in the last 3 months I’ve lived a lot of new experiences, and this is just the beginning…

To be continued…


Sophiahemmet, the University of Nursing Science

Talking about universities in Stockholm, people always get into discussion about this “Big Four” university list:KTH, Karolinska, Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics. But I always like to see things that is missing from common point of view, and I always curious about many other universities other than the four. Do they have similar method of teaching? Or different kind of grading and difficulties. The course length and combination of labs vs writing assignments. I wonder about lot of things. Luckily I have a friend studying in this neighbor university from KTH, Sophiahemmet.

Brief introduction

Sophiahemmet specialized in nursing science. It has 1,500 students on yearly basis, with total applicants approximately reach to 5,000 applicants. The university offers variety of educational programs at advanced level, such as Specialist Nursing program, Bachelor, Master and Diploma programs. It currently actively works to develop internationalization by increasing number of students within and outside of EU.

The name Sophiahemmet originated from Swedish Queen Sophia when the school was introduced back in 1884. The aim of this school is to improve quality of Swedish healthcare. The establishment of Sophiahemmet also influenced by nursing school of St.Thomas’ Hospital (established by Florence Nightingale) in London. Starting this year, Princess Sofia, who is married to Swedish Prince Carl-Philip, announced as Honorary Chairperson of Sophiahemmet and participates in the University`s graduation ceremonies.

Sophiahemmet University is fully owned by Sophiahemmet Association, a non-profit organization, which also is a healthcare provider at Sophiahemmet Hospital.

International student’s perspective

Siska in Stockholm

Siska in Stockholm

Siska Natalia is an Indonesian student studying in Sophiahemmet. Before studying here, she teach nursing program in University Pelita Harapan in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her program in Sophiahemmet is Palliative Care Nursing. First time I heard that, I had to Google that term. Turns out it is a multidisciplinary approach to specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. This is my short interview with her.

Why Sophiahemmet?

Well I have few choices of school that time. One of the reason is that Sophiahemmet have this Palliative Care Nursing program, and that they require not-so-high IELTS score (minimum of 6). It is also because this program period is only one year and we are allowed to have field study without being registered as official nurse by Swedish government”

What was it like studying in Sophiahemmet?

I find it a bit different with the education system in Indonesia. For instance, it is really interesting concept of calling the lecturer’s first name. Student’s opinion is much respected and everyone seems to accept different opinion. On unrelated topic, It is kind of difficult to get an A.



I heard you and Yenie (another Sophiahemmet student from Indonesia) missed the first month of study because of visa application?


Yes, this is something I really appreciate from the school. Not only they allow us to join the program, they also really support us to go through and catch up with the rest of students. They even picked us up at the airport. By “they”, I mean university staffs and lecturers.

Wow that is really kind of them.

Wait, there’s more. They have to wait for two hours because our baggage come out really late from the airlines. They kindly take us to the University’s registration and also taking us to bus 676, the one taking us to our dorm. And I know it is not only us, but other students been treated like that too.

What? I want name. It is good to mention good people.

Marie Tyrell. She is lovely and awesome. The other lecturer are cool too. The international office coordinator is no less. Helping us to adapt to our new situation.

How is the method used in the study?

The class consist of lectures, flipped class, workshops, and field practice. Flipped class is where the lecturers give us reading materials and then discuss it in the class. There are two days of field practice on each course. My program has total of seven courses. First semester has three courses and the second has four. 60 ECTS in total. One year of study.

For those seven courses, do they pick for you or you can freely choose some of them?

 They pick for us so it is not changeable.

What is your favorite course?

It is hard to tell. I like all of them. Maybe Symptoms Management. But no, I think I really like all of them. Because they are all core competencies for palliative care.

Last question, do you recommend people to study in Sophiahemmet?

Definitely. Like I have said, because the lecturer really support the students, the open environment of study, respect others, the field study where we taught by the real nurse and hospital mentor. I got the impression that they really want to share all that they know to us, the students.

Julmarknad – Christmas Market

Coming from England, I thought our homes, towns and shops looked Christmassy – but then I came to Sweden. Here, every window in every house has a Christmas star or candle shining onto the streets below. Every street has stunning Christmas lights hanging between buildings, and every building has a beautifully decorated Christmas tree inside. Also, not to mention it’s almost impossible to go a day without someone offering you a few of the Swedish Christmas biscuits – pepparkakor.

It also appears that there’s a new Chistmas market (julmarknad) every few days here in Stockholm. Last weekend I popped along to my local Christmas market on the island of Stora Essingen.

23696097956_1852ea7a3d_kThe wonderful florist on Stora Essingen had beautiful flower arrangements perfect for decorating rooms with some Christmas foliage.
23354240289_a6e6fa6e6c_k23095122683_d4eb1cf67e_kSome not so Christmassy Spanish meats were available to taste and buy! More traditionally Swedish is glögg – a warm spiced and sweet red or white wine, similar to the mulled wine we have in Britain.
23639660411_a4aadc0d18_k23613679212_a5ed92f62f_kLots of handmade and carefully crafted decorations from artists living on the Stockholm island.
23639648331_57aa761729_kMy favourite part of the market was the dog sleigh (see top image) which pulled the local children around the market.23696100106_a4df7b0928_k23613688012_e2fe60171e_kThe market was a prime example of the community spirit I love in Stora Essingen. Everyone coming out on a cold Sunday to have fun and support local businesses.


Swedish culture in 5 photos.

1. Fika

I see fika as a statement about the work-life balance here in Sweden, rather than an excuse to consume litres of coffee each day. I also find the concept feeds well into studying by optimising concentration with regular breaks between classes.

Check out the blog from Andaç on fika here.


2. Generosity

I’ve found Swedes – classmates, friends, strangers and lecturers – all to be extremely helpful and generous. I guess this is also reflected within the Nordic social-political model. The picture below demonstrates the community spirit and generosity in Hornstull (Stockholm) with a free book trade alcove situated under a bridge.


3. Nature

Compared to other cities I’ve visited, in Stockholm you always have nature just upon your doorstep. In the summer, the water surrounding the city islands is perfect for a quick swim and it only takes a few metro stops to find a secluded park or garden for a walk around the beautiful countryside. Everyone in Sweden really values this space and I’ve certainly started to feel this too.


4. Ikea

Going to Ikea is actually a thing. Its more than just a brand though, I think the general idea of Ikea – simple and revolutionary flatpack furniture – is a great example of the drive for new solutions and innovations. Everything just seems to work in Sweden.


5. Art

Art is everywhere – not only in the museums, it’s on the streets, in people’s fashion sense and even in the metro stations.


Sweden’s Greatest Cultural Achievements

No one knows you better than Google…

Somehow I came across this conversation in the computer lab one night…what does “Swedish” mean to you.

No need to lie, when I think “Swedish”… meatballs pile up to the top of my list.

Now, what on earth is “Swedish massage”… upon “googling”, a Swedish massage is a massage that makes you feel good. Is there a massage that is suppose to make you feel worse??




What are other “Swedish” things on my list?


1/ Volvo

Every model from the late 70’s to the brand new XC90 test vehicles, you will be amazed by the sheer number of Volvo dominating the streets of Göteborg.


Illustration by Ib Autoni.


2/ Smelly fish

Have you played a prank on someone who has never tried sushi by telling them Wasabi is “green tea ice cream”?

Ja, you have to try surströmming!

Screenshot 2015-04-16 14.15.09


3/ The ladies

SHOCKING FACT… apparently, many/most of the blonde girls in Sweden aren’t blonde. Chemicals…  but would you really care?

Swedes - Expedia

While watching the 2015 World Junior Championship (hockey) in Canada over Christmas break, according to the Expedia commercial, this is what Swedish stereotype looks like to Canadians.


4/ Snus

The locals love this stuff… while socializing, during a lab session, or in class. Everyone uses snus, which is essentially chewing tobacco. There are two versions of it: the amateur version, which is a small tea bag filled with tobacco, and then there is the expert version, which is lose tobacco and you will have to pack it into a small ball.


Have you seen an Indian person neatly eats with his hands? Being able to pack snus requires a lot of finger coordination/motor skills.

IMG_2609 IMG_2762


3/ Blue/purple plastic bags of happiness

Every Friday afternoon you will notice people making happy strides with a purple or green plastic bag in their hands.

In Sweden, beverages higher than 3.5% alcohol content are only sold in the State Monopoly Liquor stores called Systembolaget. If you want “normal” booze for the weekend, you have to dash there before it closes super early Friday night, and it remains mostly closed the entire weekend.

This is the way the Swedish government discourages drinking.

DSC08574 DSC08575

This is what Systembolaget looks like… super “noticeable”.

IMG_2568  IMG_2573

Liquor is really pricy in Sweden. High alcohol percentage beer (4.5%) is also more expensive than 3% ones.

I can afford the 3% light beer. It tastes the same as the 4.5% ones, more or less.

Wine is well priced in Sweden. Very comparable to Canada and the Netherlands…as far as I know.